What to expect in Orlando area from 'monstrous' Hurricane Michael

A house damaged by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach Fla. on Oct. 11 2018. MUST CREDIT Bloomberg

A house damaged by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach Fla. on Oct. 11 2018. MUST CREDIT Bloomberg

As Michael moved over open water, energy companies halted almost one-fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated personnel from 10 platforms on Monday.

Michael, carrying top winds of 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour), caused major disruption to US oil production as it headed north over the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid fears it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal dwellers are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the unsafe storm heading their way.

A hurricane warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to Suwannee River.

The storm is expected to unleash coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) along Florida's Panhandle and dump as much as a foot (30 cm) of rain across Florida, Georgia and SC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

Fueled by warm tropical waters, fast-strengthening Michael could gain major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph) before its anticipated landfall Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida, forecasters have warned.

The WGNO weather team will continue to monitor the latest information on Hurricane Michael and will continue to bring you the latest updates on-air, online, and on social media.

Florida governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, warning that the region must be "prepared for a direct hit with sustained hurricane force winds".

Escambia County, Santa Rosa County, Pasco County, Madison County, Liberty County Leon County, Hernando County, Gadsden County, and Calhoun County are under voluntary/phased evacuation orders. Severe storm surge is a possibility over a large portion of the Florida panhandle, with the highest surge expected to the right of the storm's track.

"The storm surge is absolutely deadly".

Weather forecast: PM thunderstorms expected

As of Tuesday evening, Michael had 120mph winds, and it still had another 18 hours or so over open water to intensify before interactions with the USA landmass would force some weakening. The governor has also warned that there is a "significant" chance of tornadoes. "You need to evacuate if you're ordered to do so".

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the November 6 elections, said on Sunday he was cancelling his campaign events and returning to Tallahassee to focus on storm preparations. Up to 15 inches of rain is possible near where the storm makes landfall.

He described Michael as a "monstrous hurricane". "Residents in these areas should follow all advice given by their local officials", the hurricane center said. "Well, we're about to get punched in the face".

The agency says erosion could be even worse in about a fourth of the Panhandle's white-sand beaches, particularly areas east of the eye, as a storm surge on top of high surf could see waves as high as 16 to 20 feet washing over the top of the protective dune line.

Florida State University has closed through Friday and the Pensacola International Airport is set to close Wednesday.

The expected path for Hurricane Michael as of October 9, 2018. That's five times higher than runner-up Louisiana, which has experienced seven October hurricane hits, including three major hurricanes, according to National Hurricane Center records.

Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties are under a Storm Surge Warning.

Torrential downpours and flash flooding from the storm over the weekend caused 13 deaths in Central America.

For now, Lauzau is trying to plan ahead, making sure they have enough water, food and sandbags.

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